Fresh Fruit: The Sweet, Healthy Dessert

Americans love dessert so much that some of us eat it before the meal instead of after. Fudgy brownies, gooey layer cake, cookies the size of saucers - we savor them all. But these desserts are high in sugar, fat, and calories. Is there such a thing as a healthy dessert? Yes, and it's fresh fruit.

"The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook" recommends fresh fruit as a regular dessert and for good reasons. Fresh fruit contains fiber, something we need to eat every day. Our bodies also need vitamin C and fresh fruits are loaded with it. Some fresh fruits, such as red grapes, may protect your body from heart disease and cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.

There are other reasons for eating fresh fruit. An article on says fresh fruit may reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes, protect the body against colon and rectal cancer, and reduce the risk of kidney disease. When the government and Mayo Clinic recommend fresh fruit, they're talking about plain fruit, not something under a mountain of whipped cream.

You must store fruit properly in order to reap its health benefits. The University of California, Davis, says some fruits should be stored at room temperature. Bananas are an example. If you put bananas in the refrigerator they get black spots on them and the flavor diminishes.

Honeydew melon, cantalope, and other fruits that can be refrigerated should be chilled after they're ripe. Store fruit in a separate bin, away from vegetables and meat. Fresh fruit should be washed just before you eat it.

Choosing fresh fruit for dessert satisfies your craving for sweets and helps you get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. These desserts are the perfect ending for a casual or fancy meal. They're healthy, too, so if you want to eat dessert before dinner, do it!

RED AND GREEN GRAPES WITH FRENCH CREAM. Wash grapes, pat dry with a towel, and put them in a large bowl. For French cream, combine 1 cup of fat free sour cream, 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, 1/2 cup Splenda, 1 teaspoon of grated lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Spoon mixed grapes into serving dishes and top with a dollop of French cream.

ORANGE FLOWERS WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE. Carefully remove the peel from four oranges. With a serrated knife, cut tic-tac-toe slices in the top of each whole orange, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the oranges on serving plates. Spread the orange "petals" apart, leaving the center "stamen" in tact. Combine 1/2 cup low sugar raspberry jam with 2 tablespoons hot water and 1 tablespoon of honey. Drizzle sauce over the orange flowers and garnish with mint.

STRAWBERRY DELIGHT PARFAITS. Wash and slice 1 pint of strawberries. Sprinkle with Splenda and set aside. Break apart mini vanilla wafers until you have 1 cup of crumbs. To make parfaits layer strawberries, fat free, sugar free strawberry yogurt, sugar free topping, and crumbled wafers in parfait glasses. Stick a whole wafer on top of each parfait before serving.

BAKED APPLES WITH CINNAMON CRUMBLE. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel 4-5 Granny Smith apples. Cut the apples into slices and arrange in concentric circles on a 9" pie plate coated with baking spray. Combine 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 3 tablespoons extra-light olive oil, and 1/2 cup sliced almonds. Sprinkle crumble mixture over apples and bake until the top is golden brown, or about 30 minutes. Serve warm with a spoonful of fat free, sugar free vanilla yogurt.

Harriet Hodgson has been a nonfiction writer for 27 years and is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists. She was a food writer for the former "Rochester Magazine" in her home town of Rochester, MN. Her 24th book, Smiling Through Your Tears: Anticipating Grief, written with Lois Krahn, MD is available on">

For more information on her work go to">

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